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One of the biggest questions surrounding the Colts defense entering the season was the health of linebacker Shaquille Leonard. 

Through the first several weeks of the season, those questions remained. Leonard has seen his role heavily reduced as he worked his way back from back surgery. In fact, he was only on the field for 72% of possible defensive snaps leading up to the Colts win over the Panthers. Before the Panthers game, Leonard expressed frustration with his role on the defense.  

“I’m not as free as I once was in the defense before. It’s kind of hard to see those splash plays because I’m either handling the ball back to Z (Zaire Franklin) or spilling it to the safeties. I’m not the free guy. I don’t blitz. It’s kind of tough to make splash plays when you just have to do your job and then on third downs you’re sitting on the sidelines being a cheerleader.” 

The lack of playing time, and the lack of game-changing plays from Leonard, had some questioning his future with the team, especially given his hefty contract. For those who do wonder about his place on the team, Sunday’s win over the Panthers offered some good signs. 

Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus joined The Ride With JMV Tuesday to break down the numbers from the NFL weekend. During his conversation with John, he spoke about Leonard graded out against the Panthers.  

“His run defense grade was one of the stronger ones he’s had this season, his overall grade was his 3rd-best mark of the year, so starting to piece it together. We saw a slow start, but I think you’re seeing him stack more and more quality performances, you know [he] was good in coverage as well. We have him credited only with allowing 3 receptions on 5 targets for 20 yards. So, making a lot of tackles, a couple of those tackles for a loss as well, which is of course important. He looked good.” 

Listen to JMV’s full conversation with Brad and others below, and tune into The Ride With JMV weekdays from 3-6pm on 93.5/107.5 The Fan!  

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